Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The conundrum of a football fan, Gronk’s partying ways and the Washington team name all are worth pondering as beach season begins.
1. A Thin Line Between Floyd Mayweather and the NFL
Not long after the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor was announced, my Twitter timeline exploded, particularly after I referred to Mayweather as a woman beater. Give me a moment to explain.
First off, Mayweather is what I called him: a woman beater. This is a fact. As historic a fighter as he is, he is an even more despicable person. His long history of domestic violence has been well-documented by the media, like in this story from Yahoo’s Kevin Iole.
Many of the people reacting to what I said about Mayweather agreed with my assessment of him, and almost all of them were hardcore football fans.
One tweet, however, asked a different question, and it went something like this: If you love the NFL, how can you judge Mayweather harshly?
It’s a fair question.
Mayweather himself has commented on the NFL and domestic violence. After Ray Rice was caught on video knocking his then-fiancee unconscious, Mayweather said: “I think there’s a lot worse things that go on in other people’s households. It’s just not caught on video, if that’s safe to say.”
Nope, it wasn’t safe to say.
“If I offended anyone I apologize,” Mayweather said a day later. “I apologize to the NFL. I strive to be a perfectionist but no one is perfect. I don’t condone what happened. I’m not even involved in football. I’m a boxer. If I’m not focused on it I don’t know why anybody else is.”
So, back to the question at hand: Can you judge Mayweather harshly if you like the NFL? The answer, like the issue of domestic violence itself, is complicated.
NFL teams employ a number of players accused of domestic violence, and those men are financially rewarded because of all those who watch football or cover it in the media. That’s the truth every NFL fan who hates Mayweather and says they would never watch his fight has to face (same with some of us in the media).
Purchasing a fight on pay-per-view puts money in the pocket of Mayweather. If you are a fan of, say, the Cincinnati Bengals, the team that drafted Joe Mixon—who cold-cocked a woman—and you buy a Bengals ticket, the money derived from that purchase trickles down to the players. That includes Mixon, who also receives some type of financial compensation, however small, when fans turn on their televisions or buy their NFL RedZone packages.
John Minchillo/Associated Press
And Mixon is just one example. Kicker Josh Brown was protected, and financially rewarded, by the New York Giants despite horrific admissions of domestic violence.
There is, however, a big difference between Mayweather and the NFL. As faulty as the NFL’s punishments of its players for domestic abuses are—and the NFL has made a ton of errors—there’s at least a system in place to discipline players who commit those crimes.
In boxing, there really isn’t. There’s no organization in boxing willing or capable of punishing Mayweather for those types of crimes. Iole wrote that, as recently as 2015, no man has ever been denied a license to fight by a state athletic commission for committing domestic violence. And that has allowed Mayweather to generate $180 million paydays for fighting Manny Pacquiao or possibly even more when he fights McGregor.
So at least NFL fans who turn up their noses at Mayweather can cling to the fact that football holds its players somewhat accountable for their actions, unlike boxing.
Domestic abusers have, to be sure, gotten multiple chances in the NFL, and if Rice were younger, he’d likely get another as well. But NFL players are paying some price. Not always. But it does happen.
So can you judge Mayweather harshly if you like the NFL?
The answer is, you can. Barely.
2. It’s Good to Be the Quarterback
Stephen Brashear/Associated Press
One AFC general manager believes the free agency of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in 2018 will have long-reaching effects on the league.
“[Stafford’s] new deal will be in the $25 million-a-year range and could be slightly higher,” the GM predicted. “The key to watch is Aaron [Rodgers]. If Stafford gets a new deal for that much, I can’t blame Aaron for wanting more. Stafford’s deal could lead to a showdown between Aaron and the Packers.”
Rodgers has a contract that lasts through 2019. He will make approximately $12.6 million this year, $20 million next year and another $20 million the year after that. If Stafford does get $25 million a season, watch Rodgers’ reaction closely.
3. Change of Heart
Few teams in the NFL, collectively, despise Roger Goodell like the Steelers players. It’s been that way for years. Remember, when the last CBA was ratified, the only team that voted against it was the Steelers. They feared Goodell had too much power. They were right.
Antonio Brown @AB84
🔥🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 @nflcommish https://t.co/XHM60hRYoT
So it’s interesting watching receiver Antonio Brown now call Goodell the best commissioner because the NFL has relaxed its celebration rules. It remains to be seen whether the rest of the Steelers locker room feels the same way.
4. Only Gronk Is Allowed to Be Gronk
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has managed to become the best ever at his position (I said it) while establishing a rep as one of the biggest party guys in the NFL.
Recently, he ran up a $100,000 tab that included 160 bottles of champagne, more than all of the champagne consumed in Times Square on New Year’s Eve (just kidding).
The fact that Gronkowski parties isn’t news. The mild reaction he seems to get because of it, however, is to a number of players around the league.
Players tell me, as they have for some time now, that they don’t believe any other player could get away with the party rep the way Gronk does. This isn’t jealousy, just bewilderment.
Gronkowski is held to a different standard, but he gets away with it because he is dedicated and productive on the field. His pain tolerance is almost legendary and his ability to transform the Patriots offense is all but irreplaceable.
Gronkowski knows he’s popular, and he’s using that knowledge to make money off the field. He gets that part of it, and that’s smart, even if his NFL brethren are perplexed by it.
5. Toughness Doesn’t Make You Indestructible
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
One of the NFL’s darker legacies is how it—and this is being generous—obfuscated when it came to informing players everything it knew about head trauma. Even one of the toughest runners the sport has ever seen agrees.
“You definitely feel as though you were taken advantage of in a way that you weren’t given that information,” Bettis told the Associated Press (via ProFootballTalk), “and you always want to have the choice of knowing, and when that is taken away from you, you feel as though you were taken advantage of.”
Bettis played 13 seasons and was a handful to take down, but as we know now, when it comes to head trauma, toughness is irrelevant. The brain can simply get overwhelmed by the violence of the sport.
“I don’t think you’ll find many guys that had a long career, played 10-plus years, that didn’t have a concussion,” Bettis said.
6. Did Jay Cutler Officially Retire?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Still, I’ve been told by an NFL source that Cutler has yet to file his retirement papers, though it was expected that he would once he became an analyst for Fox.
No matter. It seems likely his career under center is done.
7. Another Offseason Win for the Titans
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Former Jets wide receiver Eric Decker is probably one of the five- or 10-best route-runners in football and is still a highly effective receiver. In adding him this week, the Titans continued to build what is shaping up as quite an offense with Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and the most underrated tight end in the NFL, Delanie Walker, also on the depth chart.
Combined with a reworked secondary, the Titans are getting fairly scary and doing it quickly.
8. Does the NFL Have a Parity Problem?
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
As much as the NFL touts parity, the past 10 to 15 years have seen the league slowly devolve into a collection of superpowers and everyone else.
This USA Today story named five teams that can win the Super Bowl this season. I’d say it’s maybe just three: the Patriots, Packers and Cowboys. If Dak Prescott makes a leap forward, the Cowboys will be hard to beat, and you are well-acquainted with what Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers can do.
The NFL has had other moments in its history when it was top-heavy, and it could be argued (though I go back and forth on this) that today’s sport has more contenders in teams such as the Falcons, Titans, Raiders and others, but only a handful has the combination of quarterback power and overall team prowess.
9. Still Nothing on Kaepernick
As I always say, things could quickly change, but as of now Colin Kaepernick is still waiting to get an offer from an NFL team, any NFL team. At this point it appears it won’t be until training camp that Kaepernick gets a chance to sign.
10. The Supreme Court and the Washington Football Team
Nick Wass/Associated Press
The United States Supreme Court ruled this week that federal trademarks can be registered, even if offensive or derogatory. That essentially means the Washington football team will be able to use its nickname, one that many Native Americans (and other Americans, as well) find offensive.
In response, the National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata, and Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter released a statement that may have eluded many football fans.
It’s lengthy, but it’s also important to show how some leaders in the Native American community, who have been fighting this mascot issue for decades, feel about it and the court’s decision.
“We are gratified that this Supreme Court case amplified the intensifying public debate over the NFL’s support for bigotry against Native Americans. The work of Amanda Blackhorse and other leading activists fighting against the use of the R-word has been tremendously successful and critically important. They have invaluably raised awareness about the problems with mascots such as the R-word epithet used by the Washington NFL team, and brought the important issue of mascotization to the forefront of social consciousness.
This is an issue we have always believed will not be solved in a courtroom, and this ruling does not change some very clear facts. Washington’s football team promotes, markets and profits from the use of a word that is not merely offensive—it is a dictionary-defined racial slur designed from the beginning to promote hatred and bigotry against Native Americans. This is a word that was screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands—and the hate-infused meaning of the word is precisely why this particular name was given to the team by avowed segregationist and first team owner George Preston Marshall.
And the problems caused by the R-word epithet are still very real and present today. Social science research has shown that its continued use has devastating impacts on the self-image and mental health of Native Americans, particularly children.
At a time when social and racial justice issues are woven into the fabric of our country’s sports culture, there is growing need and desire to evolve away from such outdated standards. This is evidenced by the outcry we’ve seen for the R-word name to be changed, from a diverse coalition of supporters including Native American tribes, elected officials from both parties, civil and human rights organizations and religious leaders, sports icons, leading journalists and news publications.
If the NFL wants to live up to its statements about placing importance on equality, then it shouldn’t hide behind these rulings, but should act to the end this hateful and degrading slur.”
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @mikefreemanNFL.